Copious Writing is More than Exercise

When I tell people that the key to being a writer is writing, a common response is skepticism.

Earlier today someone asked, “Do you really write 100 pages or more a month?” Absolutely. I cannot imagine any serious prose or dramatic writer produces fewer than 15,000 words a month and much closer to 25,000. Most of what I write is for myself, but a substantial amount is intended for future publication or production. Also, writing a page is not the same as keeping the page.

Writing is not a race. I certainly don’t expect talented poets to consider word counts a sign of greatness. If anything, poetry is a concise art. But other forms of writing are judged by word and/or page counts.

How can you write 100 pages a month? And should you write that much?

Let me answer the should you question: Yes, if you can. Why? Because drafts are meant to be edited. I think the more you write, the better you write. You learn to edit in your mind, as you type or write each sentence.

You learn to be concise, which means the words that do remain on the page are valuable. Writing a lot doesn’t mean what you write survives the revision process. I’m a fan of short stories, 1000 to 5000 words. I’ve read that most of these are cut by a third during revision and editing passes. Personal experience mirrors this.

There is no one way to write 100 pages.

I have averaged more than 300 pages of “non-personal” writing each six months for the last two years. Most of this has been academic, since I was completing my doctorate. Since January, I have written three full-length screenplays, totaling 297 pages (excluding title pages), and six magazine columns (1000 words each). I’m also working on several other projects I hope to complete before the end of June. Add my personal writing, blogging, presentation handouts, and website content and the amount of writing exceeds 1000 pages every six months.

I need deadlines. I need feedback. For this reason, it helps me to be in contact with other writers.

There are books offering to help you write a novel or a screenplay in a month. I have no idea if those guides work or not, so I cannot suggest any books.

To write a novel or screenplay in a month, you need a schedule. You also need to realize that the month will produce only a draft 100 pages, not a final product. You may need three months, six months, or even a year to create a final draft. During the revision process, you need to keep writing.

What is a good pace for writing? I would suggest a three-page minimum (750 words) with no upper limit. If you can write three pages a day, five days a week, that’s roughly 3750 words a week and 15,000 words a month. To reach 25,000 words means writing 1,250 words each weekday or writing on weekends.

Again, writing is not a race, but you should at least have a pace in mind. Some days you will exceed the goal, some days you will fall short. One tip: do not “reward” yourself for surpassing the goal by writing less the next day. Cutting your target starts bad habits.

These are only some random thoughts, which I will refine for our website. For now, I hope the suggestions help.

- Scott

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